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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Two columns on Schools in the Enterprise Miss the Mark

Dunning yesterday in his column suggested that the "town owes Murphy a standing ovation."

He suggests first:
"like most superintendents, David Murphy had his supporters and his detractors … it comes with the territory … it would be impossible to be a superintendent of schools in Davis and make hard decisions without someone taking a shot at you, including the local daily columnist …"
That is true--he has both his supporters and his detractors and it is also true that any superintendent would probably create some animosity. That however should not wipe out an assessment of his performance that I think will inevitably show that Davis is fortunate that they have an opportunity for fresh leadership in the school district.
"Yes, I've had a few disagreements with David Murphy during his tenure here, but none that made me question his integrity, his dedication or his desire to make the Davis district the best it could be "
Here is where I strongly disagree with Mr. Dunning. I have strong questions about his integrity and his performance. We perhaps can accept that he probably did have dedication and desire to make the Davis district the best it could be, but that does not mean he did a good job of doing that.

He leaves behind a legacy that has severe blemishes on it. His tenure as Principal at Davis High School was stained with the blood of Thong Hy Huynh and perhaps we could let it go, but his tenure as Superintendent often exacerbated that error. He was oblivious to the problem of bullying and blindsided by the intensity of emotions at a public meeting in 2003 where hundreds of parents and students came up, often drenched in tears, to complain about the situation. That forced his hand, but even in forcing his hand, the victory was incomplete and the scenario had to repeat yet again this school year with young Zach Fischer. It took Board President Jim Provenza and fellow board member Keltie Jones considerable effort to finally pin David Murphy down to strong language to fix the problems that had existed for years in terms of the discrepancies in the discipline code.

Moreover as I have cited throughout this past week there are multiple examples of financial misconduct, errors, malfeasance, and misfeasance. The King high school situation is just but one public example of the ongoing problems under David Murphy's tenure.

This town most certainly does not owe any Superintendent who makes over six figures a year in compensation a standing ovation. He was WELL compensated for his duties. But David Murphy's legacy is a tarnished one and hopefully the school board has hired the right person to set things in the Davis Joint Unified School District right again.

Meanwhile Richard Harris wrote a well-intentioned but ultimately flawed piece on Valley Oak.

There are strong reasons to keep Valley Oak open without opening up the development can of worms.

Harris uttered these words:
"Should the voters be asked to approve flexibility to Measure J to allow the City Council to approve annexations for a specified time period without projects going back out to voters?"
Supporters of Valley Oak should shutter, because the last thing that they want to is destroy the emerging consensus and support for keeping Valley Oak and the other eight elementary schools open by needless invocation that will scare literally half the voters.

Keep the growth issue separate from the Valley Oak issue. The enrollment figures by themselves do not justify closing the school even in the worst case scenario. Mixing issues can be fatal and Harris, who should know better, did not help the Valley Oak cause by needlessly alarming any self-respecting progressive or slow-growther or other supporter of Measure J.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting